The 11 professional sports teams that represent Los Angeles came together to create “The A11iance,” a group designed to empower marginalized youth in Los Angeles through sports.
The Alliance has made a five-year commitment to galvanize Black and Brown communities. The teams came together for the first time on May 31, in the wake of the civil unrest for the murder of George Floyd.
“In many cases we’re rivals, but in this case, we’re allies to push against racial injustice to take on important issues and communities of color and particularly the Black community,” said Tom Penn, the president and co-owner of the LAFC. “We expect this alliance to be a beacon and a magnet for cooperation and collaboration in Los Angeles.”
The teams are partnering with the Play Equity Fund and the Los Angeles 84 Foundation (LA84). Renata Simril, president and CEO of LA84 sees play equity as a social justice issue because the lack of funding, volunteers, and mentors.
“This is all a hindrance to positive engagement activities for kids and their connection for support systems that help them realize their true potential,” Simril said. “When kids play, they are healthier, both physically and mentally and do better in school.”
Dodgers general manager, Dave Roberts, spoke on behalf of his franchise. The Dodgers Foundation powers the Dodgers RBI youth baseball and softball program that serves 368,000 kids and has created 51 Dodgers Dream Fields. LADF earned the 2020 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year Award for their efforts.
“I know that me being the first African American minority manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it took people when I was younger to invest in me,” Roberts said. “I’m hopeful that this spurs a movement.”
The Play Equity Fund website will track the progress the Alliance makes, they will also create an advisory board that will be made up of one representative from each pro team.
Blake Bolden, the first African American woman to become a pro hockey player, represented the Los Angeles Kings. She became the first African American Scout in the NHL when the Kings hired her six months ago. Throughout her childhood, she was the only black hockey player.
“Growing up in a Black community, it was evident that the challenges and the access that I have and it just wasn’t fair,” Bolden said. “I don’t want it to be a coincidence anymore for more Black and Brown kids to be playing more sports.”
The Alliance has already been in talks with social justice organizations to work with them, they are also looking for community organizations to partner with to create a cohort of young leaders between the ages of 14-18. They want to track the impact of their programming based on graduation rates over their five-year commitment.
“Being involved and finding our own way and even creating a space for young women throughout this platform and helping to be that leading voice is something we’re excited about,” said Los Angeles Sparks president and CEO Danita Johnson. “I think five years from now, we’ll all be able to look back and be really proud of the work that we were able to do and accomplish together.”